Our View: SRO at Trigg; Some miss the reason it’s needed

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  • The Pasquotank County commissioners approved a request from the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools to assign a school resources officer to the H.L. Trigg Community School.
  • Kudos to the board for approving the SRO assignment. It is justified, but some members missed the education objectives behind the request.

We applaud the Pasquotank County Board of Commissioners for giving a thumbs-up to a full-time school resource officer at H.L. Trigg Community School. The board was encouraged to go along with the assignment by the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Board of Education and the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office. Both agreed that law enforcement at Trigg, the system’s alternative school, should be approved.

The county wasn’t asked to kick in direct funding. The position salary and benefits will be funded by EC-Pasquotank, while the sheriff’s office will pay for uniforms and vehicle expenses. Those costs, to come out of this year’s budget, include $46,984 for salary, benefits, health insurance and related expenses.

The county’s decision was the right one. In their discussion of the request, however, some commissioners fretted about the costs of a resource officer and operating a school that serves only a few students. We’re concerned that those sentiments reveal a lack of exposure to the real world of education, which requires special accommodations like Trigg.

Trigg was set up as an alternative school more than a decade ago. Found in many school systems, alternative schools serve students, some of whom have behavioral problems, who have trouble adjusting to a normal classroom environment. Schools Superintendent Linwood Williams described these students as “behaviorally handicapped.”

Trigg’s operations are organized to work with students who have difficulty adjusting. Teachers and staff are trained to help these students make adjustments in behavior so they can learn. The goal is to provide a setting to give them as much opportunity as possible to overcome their handicap and emerge with an education. Many students assigned to Trigg are allowed to re-enter the regular school environment.

The process, however, comes with the cost of dealing with some — through certainly not all — students that have a violent personality. Unlike the general student population, where there may be the occasional fight between students, Trigg has a higher potential for that to happen. Additionally, earlier this year a Trigg student struck a school staff member. Though the incident apparently did not result in injury, it raises the concern among the school staff as well as among residents living in the area of Trigg, which is located off Parkview Drive across from the Elizabeth City State University campus.

Assigning an SRO, who is in effect an officer of the Pasquotank Sheriff’s Department, is certainly a justified response for the safety and security of students, staff and local residents at Trigg. For the same reason, SROs are assigned at other schools, which the county currently supports.

However, because of its small student population, the costs of operating Trigg and keeping a resource officer there may appear out of line with other schools, as it apparently did to Pasquotank Commissioner Gary White. In fact, responding to the needs of students with behavior problems is more costly to the taxpayers.

White observed, “It certainly doesn’t speak highly for our society today, 
does it?”

To which Superintendent Williams responded: “It’s the world in which we live.”

Both responses indicate the varying perspective of how public officials see and react to their respective obligations. White apparently views students with behavioral issues as a costly inconvenience, preferring the image — and myth — of education as engaged and goal-motivated students, unaffected by differences in their home and family experience.

Williams, on the other hand, whose focus is on melding the objectives of education with realities of the human experience, responds by looking for solutions to that challenge.

Trigg is a response to students who may not fit in with other students or the general classroom model, but whose lives can be improved by education when adults and leaders care enough.

Granted, it’s commendable that Pasquotank commissioners scrutinize expenditure of the taxpayers money. The goal of being both efficient and wise with the use of public money always should be a guiding principle for public officials.

We’d urge, however, that when they consider expenses for public education, that the objective of saving a dollar not come at the cost of a student’s future. That will turn out to be even more expensive to the taxpayers.